J is for Juxtaposition

BLAST_JA few weeks ago I posted on how to use juxtaposition in a setting, as character development and in prose to enhance a scene.

Juxtaposition is:

[important]The arrangement of two or more ideas, characters, actions, settings, phrases, or words side-by-side or in similar narrative moments for the purpose of comparison, contrast, rhetorical effect, suspense, or character development.[/important]


Today I’m writing about how to use juxtaposition in plots and in the action scenes.

3 tips for using juxtaposition.

  • Juxtaposition works well for:  A quick pop of something different (comic relief), for a reversal and as a theme running throughout the whole plot. Developing the logical bridge between the two disparaging areas of comparison is not necessary, but it works best when the reader can follow along and buy into the connection. Get creative and have fun with it – juxtaposition used in action scenes can be funny stuff.

  • A few reoccurring themes in juxtaposition heavy plots and scenes are:

    Characters who misunderstand an item’s intended use and re-purpose it for another use.

    Encino Man
    Film: Encino Man

    When characters act outside the societal roles we expect them to follow. This is one of my favorite themes and works in so many different ways…

    Bad TeacherWhen characters live at odds with the surrounding environment, or the best possible lifestyle. Think of the Districts vs. the Capital in Hunger Games. The futuristic extension of the rich vs. poor theme is often found in dystopian literature.

  • Some plots and genres favor extensive use of juxtaposition scenes more than others:

    Novels with dueling, parallel or counter cut viewpoints.

    Humorous stories, including romantic comedies.

    Fish out of water stories, including most time travel projects.

    Reversals of fortune, and increase of fortune tales.

    Coming-of-age plots use it in many cases, but not all.

    Science fiction, mostly seen in dystopian, steampunk and alternative history, but it can show up anywhere in Sci-Fi.

    In horror, especially in gothic and noir plots.

    Paranormal, supernatural, and magical realism stories.

    2 examples of good craft:

    For my first example I’m picking FEVER CRUMB, but any of the Predator Cities series by Philip Reeve will also work. Who doesn’t love giant moving cities and municipal Darwinism? Fever Crumb has so many juxtaposing examples, like the electronic surveillance and killing machines fashioned out of two glued-together sheets of paper and run by recycled wire harnesses. I know it sounds odd, but once they start unfolding themselves, slipping under a victim’s front door and walking around, you’ll see my point. Trust me, it works!

    FRANKENSTEIN is my second pick. Science is perfectly at odds with the era, it’s exploded into something unimaginable and grotesque. Love it! The idea of a reanimated corpse is juxtaposition at it’s finest. Although it’s also the cornerstone of all zombie fiction, but some writers just do it better than others.

    1 link for more help:

    You can read my post on Juxtaposition, linked above or this one from Movie Online which has a number of great examples from TV and movies.


Author: Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, educator, and historical consultant. She writes mystery fiction, with diverse characters and a touch of snark. She's currently working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook(https://www.facebook.com/robin.rivera.90813). However, Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/RRWrites/) is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

6 thoughts on “J is for Juxtaposition”

  1. I love how clearly explained this is. I also love the previous posts in this A to Z list which I’ve just been reading! I’m not doing A to Z this year but I really love this.

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      I was sorry to see you didn’t join in, but A to Z is such a HUGE commitment. I honestly don’t know how any solo bloggers do it. I’m happy with how the theme is turning out this year, and I’m glad to hear you like it too. : )

  2. This is one of my favorite subjects. Matter of fact, in one of my novels I used juxtaposition many, many times. For instance, a cat burglar who falls in love with a detective. She’s stealth yet absent-minded. And her best friend is a mousy librarian. When +/- collide it can be explosive. Love it!

    1. You are my tribe, Sue. : ) I LOVE juxtaposition too, in my own work and other writer’s work. Your examples are amazing. Contrast is king!

    1. Hi Diane,
      We had the goal of running the posts like a month long crash course in fiction writing. I think considering we are capping every post at 500 words we’re doing okay.

We love comments and questions.

%d bloggers like this: